Carolyn Demaray retired in June, after 41 years in the city of San Diego’s Library Department. She has returned to the city, working as a librarian or branch manager when needed. The city is paying her as a provisional employee, a classification that doesn’t exist in the budget. The money comes from a budget vacancy.

So try to follow me here. Demaray is working for the city of San Diego. According to the budget, her job doesn’t exist. But she’s paid because the budget includes money for a permanent position that hasn’t been filled.

You wouldn’t be the only one confused by this arrangement.

“I’m a vacant position?” Demaray asked.

Demaray’s situation is one of the more mystifying connected to the idea of a “vacant position.” It was one of the reasons I decided to address it this week in our continuing coverage of the city’s budget crisis. Vacancies take on more significance because eliminating them has been Mayor Jerry Sanders’ primary vehicle to reduce employee expenditures in the short term. After his most recent proposal, there’s none left to cut.

I got in touch with Demaray because of her unusual status with the city. Before her retirement, she was a branch manager for Carmel Valley’s library. Now she’s working about 12 hours a week.

“I go wherever,” said Demaray, 60. “I go wherever they need the coverage.”

She’s concerned about the city’s budget situation and how it could affect libraries. She already notices shortages.

“A lot of people have been around a long time, not necessarily 41 years, but a long time,” Demaray said. “People have put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into the libraries and they want to see it do well.”

Because the situation is so dire, she hopes that provisional employees are the first to go. Full-time employees need their jobs, Demaray said. She doesn’t.

♦♦♦

I mentioned in my story that if Sanders’ proposal to cut 800 vacancies goes through City Council, then the city will have fewer employees per capita than in it did 2000. That ratio will grow smaller, especially in the city’s day-to-day operating budget.

San Diego Association of Governments estimated the city’s population at 1,353,993 for Jan. 1, 2009. If Sanders proposal passes, the city will have 4.9 general fund-supported employees per 1,000 city residents and 7.2 employees citywide per 1,000 residents, assuming flat population growth.

The city’s annual budget lists these ratios going back to 2000 and then every 10 years going back to 1970. In those statistics, the city has never had fewer than five general-fund supported employees per 1,000 residents. Only once, in 1980, has the city had fewer than 7.2 employees citywide per 1,000 residents.

Remember these figures assume the city eliminates only its vacancies. Every city politician has said layoffs are coming, too.

— LIAM DILLON

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